Ron Pierce was born in Livermore, California on June 21, 1956. Initially interested in becoming a career jockey, Pierce began driving Standardbreds in the mid-seventies. He was introduced to the sport by his father Don, who was a driver and trainer in California. Since that time, Pierce has amassed (by 2004 year-end) 5,172 wins and almost $92 million in purses. Major wins include eleven Breeders Crown Championships, three Little Brown Jugs, two Cane Paces, the Hambletonian, the World Trotting Derby and the Adios.
In the early eighties, after a stint driving in Macao in Southeast Asia, Pierce returned to Southern California. He became a fixture on the California circuit in the mid-eighties, winning his first driving title at Los Alamitos in 1985. The following year he became the leading dashwinning driver at Fairplex Park, California and Canterbury Downs, Minnesota.
Pierce, after moving to New Jersey in the late eighties, consistently ranked among the leading drivers in that state. He gained national attention in 1989, driving the 3-year-old pacing colt Casino Cowboy. The Niatross sophomore won 13 of 37 starts that year, with earnings of $570,311. He captured the $90,000 New Faces Series final, the $44,500 Complex Series final and a $63,000 Oliver Wendell Holmes elimination. Later that same year, Pierce piloted Sam Francisco Bem home in the $907,000 Woodrow Wilson final, defeating In The Pocket by a neck in 1989's richest freshman pacing event of the year.
Pierce was the principal driver of Shady Daisy during both the 1992 and 1993 seasons. She was named the USTA/USHWA Aged Pacing Mare of the Year for both years. As a 4-year-old, in 1992, the Falcon Seelster mare won 9 of 21 starts and banked $417,655. Pierce piloted her to victories that year in the $306,750 Breeders Crown and the $115,260 Milton final. The following year, she had 13 victories in 32 starts with a bankroll of $500,605. Pierce drove her to triumphs in the $108,000 Milton, the $56,250 Overbid Series and the $41,000 Cape & Cutter.
In 1993, as a 3-year-old, the Super Bowl trotting colt American Winner had 15 wins in 22 starts, with earnings of $1,299,468. Pierce drove him to victories in the first two legs of the Triple Crown: the Hambletonian and the Yonkers Trot. They took the $313,699 Yonkers Trot in 1:56.2, a world record for a 3-year-old trotting colt on a half-mile track. In the Hambletonian, American Winner won his $100,000 elimination in a stakes-record clocking of 1:53.1; then he came back to take the $1 million final in 1:53.2. Two weeks after the Hambletonian, in a division of the Zweig Memorial at Syracuse, American Winner scored in 1:52.3, at the time the second-fastest trotting mile in history. Other big wins in 1993 for Pierce and American Winner were the $163,399 Dexter Cup final, the $125,000 MacFarlane Memorial, a $112,108 Simcoe Stakes division, and the $72,260 Old Oaken Bucket.
Pierce continued with his successes throughout the nineties. In the last year of the decade, he was the regular driver for Dan Patch divisional winner and overall Pacer of the Year, 3-year-old pacing colt Blissfull Hall. The son of Cambest had 15 victories in 23 trips to the post, with earnings of $1,326,819. He became just the ninth pacer in the history of the sport to win the Triple Crown. Pierce guided him to a 1:51.4 score (a national season's best on a half-mile track) in the $377,934 Cane Pace final; a 1:55.3 triumph in a four horse race-off captured the $543,980 Little Brown Jug; and a 1:51.2 victory in the $347,760 Messenger (after winning his $43,470 elimination in a 1:51.1 national season's best on a 5/8-mile oval). The team also won a $99,060 Simcoe Stakes division; were second in the $284,331 Adios and the $240,000 Provincial Cup; they were also third in the $588,000 Breeders Crown final and the $225,000 Progress Pace final.
In 2003, Ron Pierce finished second in the North American earnings standings with $9,361,745 and 280 victories. It was his 16th consecutive season of at least 100 winning drives. At the Meadowlands' winter/spring/summer session he finished second in earnings ($4,581,705), while ranking third in both victories (175) and UDR (.245). He was second in purses ($1,085,740) and had a UDR of .268 at The Big M's fall meet, ending up with a second-place tie with Mike Lachance in victories (25). Pierce was second in money ($918,297) at The Red Mile's fall Grand Circuit meet, ranking fourth in victories (17) and eighth in UDR (.304). At the summer/fall session at Freehold, Ron was fifth in UDR (.303) and ninth in purses ($423,963). His $1,207,981 in earnings during the fall meeting at Mohawk put him in sixth place there. His successes that year were mainly with Dan Patch Award winners Mr. Muscleman and I Am A Fool. The 3-year-old trotting gelding Mr. Muscleman posted 8 victories in 17 starts and banked $1,178,115. He dominated his rivals in the fall of that year, capturing the $972,545 Canadian Trotting Classic final, the $585,000 Breeders Crown final, the $526,000 Kentucky Futurity and an $85,900 Bluegrass division. His 1:53.3 time in the $189,360 Kentucky Futurity final equaled the national season's record for a sophomore trotting gelding on a mile track.
The 2-year-old pacing colt I Am A Fool was victorious in 9 of his 15 juvenile appearances, with earnings of $1,159,062. He was triumphant for Pierce in the $652,898 Governor's Cup, the $540,000 Breeders Crown final, the $246,000 Matron, a $82,930 division of the Nassagaweya and a $82,308 Champlain Stakes split. The son of Life Sign set a national season's record for a freshman pacing colt on a mile track, with his 1:51.2 score in a Breeders Crown elimination. This duo also cashed in by finishing second in the $830,798 Metro final and third in the $640,000 Woodrow Wilson final.
Pierce also spent quality time in 2003 behind the tough freshman trotting colt Tom Ridge. The bay Muscles Yankee son was a winner in six of his eight starts that year, earning $383,037. He dominated the field for Pierce in the $440,000 Peter Haughton Memorial final, winning in 1:56.1 (a 2003 North American season's mark for a 2 year-old trotting colt on a mile track). They also took the $150,000 New Jersey Sires Stakes final.
Free-for-all pacer E Dee's Cam was another Pierce regular in 2003. The 7-year-old ridgling posted five wins, three seconds and one third in 11 starts, taking home $308,800 in checks. He took the $275,000 Graduate Series final (in 1:48.3, a national season's best for an older pacing male on a mile track). They were second in the $121,000 Presidential Series final and fifth in the $200,000 Dan Patch Invitational.
Other major wins for Pierce in 2003 came with Southwind Allaire ($500,000 Hambletonian Oaks final), Quality Western ($260,000 Oliver Wendell Holmes); Whig Party ($150,000 New Jersey Sires Stakes 2FP final), Lyell Creek N ($132,420 Su Mac Lad Series final); Mr. Eero ($131,037 Zweig Memorial division); Classic Hogan ($113,000 International Stallion take 2CT division); On Track ($109,300 International Stallion Stake 2CP division ) and Jugular ($100,000 Complex Series final).
2004 was Pierce's best year to date. Not only was he elected a member of Harness Racing's Living Hall of Fame, he took his 5,000th win, led the Leading Moneywinning Drivers list and brought in a new career mark of $12,327,863 in season's earnings. Top winners for him that year were Timesareachanging, who took the Adios, the Cane (dead heat with Western Terror), and the Little Brown Jug; Rainbow Blue, winner of the Fan Hanover, the Breeders Crown, the New Jersey Sires Stakes 3-Year-Old Filly Trot, the Matron, Tarport Hap, Glen Garnsey Memorial, and the Nadia Lobell; and Tom Ridge, who went with Pierce to the World Trotting Derby winner's circle.
Other memorable horses Ron Pierce has driven over the years include Dorunrun Bluegrass, Giant Victory, Jet Laag, Dream Away, Tune Town, Sealed N Delivered, Dragon Again, Badlands Hanover, Shady Character, Supergrit, Like A Prayer, and Windylane Hanover.
Ron Pierce lives in Clarksburg, New Jersey with his wife Louise (Lulu) and two young sons, Jessie and Keith.
Published in the Harness Racing Museum's 2005 Souvenir Journal